Image: No blogging as I've mostly been in transit (or out of action)...
OK, so it's near criminal that I've not been blogging for about a month. It's a blend of logistical (two weeks on the road with back-to-back fascinating meetings for almost every waking hour interspersed with flying to, from and around America) and medical (gruesome and grueling but not too serious in the long run).
Anyhow, dusting myself down as I prepare to head back to work (warmed up with a couple of presentations at Social Media Influence and the Independent Schools Council Annual Conference - more on these later) I decide a little light blogging is in order.
I fire up Ecto and Evernote to be greeted with a questionnaire on blogging that I filled in a month back for a friend who is writing a paper on blogs and PR.
Seems appropriate to share the responses and remind myself why I blog while I'm at it...
Q: Why blog?
There are so many reasons that blogging works for me, the would almost justify an essay in its own right. Almost.
Ultimately, there are some strong potential benefits for any individual or organisation to consider blogging. Really most people should just try and see *if* it works for them and discover the reasons why themselves.
- Public notebook: I’ve come to think of my blog most of all as a public notebook, a place where I share interesting finds, thoughts and ideas with whoever might be interested. This allows me to write quickly, in the rough and not think about writing as if I were publishing in a magazine or newspaper. I don’t have time to be overly fussy, as I fit writing for my blog into snatched moments amidst a very hectic schedule.
- Good for reading: Blogging is most often the end point of a personal workflow sequence that begins with reading news, feature articles, analyst reports and most of all the blog posts of people I admire. Because I have the habit of blogging it keeps me going back to my RSS feed reader often. Reading often keeps me up with the latest developments in all the different fields of interest I need to.
- Good for thinking: I do my best thinking when I am writing. I order my thoughts, take and then challenge my own positions on things, and come up with quite a few new ideas. It’s best of course to take time out for thinking, but in a busy job it means I’m at least grabbing some thinking time here and there. In this way blogging is like a bulwark against being a “busy fool”, always doing without any reflection or marshaling of useful knowledge.
- Good for conversations: The fact that these thoughts and bits of knowledge are instantly shared on my blog means that within minutes or hours of finding something exciting I can be connected and having a conversation both with good contacts and unexpected-but-welcome strangers with a perspective. This doesn’t just happen in the comments section - it can be in email, as a result of them linking to my blog, a phone call or Tweet (Twitter message).
- Social / professional connector: It’s incredible the number of brilliant people I’ve met - virtually and in the physical world - in the few short years I’ve been writing a blog. It has literally taken me around the world and into all kinds of wonderful and enriching relationships.
- Reputation management: My blog is number one for my name in Google. That means if anyone wants to know about me they can arrive here first, get a sense of what I'm about.
- Helps me understand how the web works: Even though most of the reasons I write a blog are profoundly personal, the statistics about who visits my blog and how they there - especially the search terms they use that brings up posts from my blog have made the wray that the web works very tangible. Even just seeing the traffic coming in from multiple search engines for keywords like “Continential airlines complaints” after I’d written a critical post showed me how real the reputation issues around social media for brands were.
Q: What in your opinion makes a good blog post
There's really no single answer to this. A good blog post is one which adds to its network - a thought, a comment, new information, or just a link to something else.
A good blog post is in the eye of the beholder - especially the creator.
Q: On average, how many responses do you receive per blog post?
Three or four, if I'm lucky.
Q: What kinds of stories tend to receive the most response?
The most responses tend to be around stories of poor service or products. These tend to be from random people who are upset by something and are looking for people with similar experiences and to vent their frustration.
More useful to me are responses from people in my networks - other bloggers and people interested or working in media, marketing and the web
Q: Do you write with your audience in mind, and invite comment?
I sometimes invite comments, but not very often. I'm really pleased when I get a reaction to a post, but I've found that consciously writing for an imagined slows things down and in a way isn't appropriate to the medium and the way I use it.
As I say, often it is the most unexpected things that elicit a response and are useful to people. It seems that “writing for yourself” and “writing what you know” are good rules of thumb when writing a blog.
Q: Have you ever adapted what you write because of response you have received to a post?
Yes - on a number of occasions. Usually when I’ve had an error (or errors).
Q: Do you respond to comments?
I try to respond as quickly as possible to comments most of the time. It helps add to the conversation around a topic and returns the gesture of paying attention to whoever’s been kind enough to take the time and trouble to say something.
Q: Do you moderate comments, and ever remove them?
I tend to have to remove a lot of spam from my comments (people linking to their own site, but not really adding any value to the post), but I don’t think I’ve ever had to remove any comments for being inappropriate.
Q: Have you identified any 'types' of blog responder, i.e. do they have different motivations in leaving comments?
Some people simply want to sound their approval or disapproval of what you’re saying.
Others leave a link to something they’ve seen elsewhere that is important or relevant.
Every now and again there’s a brilliant, essay like response from someone. I sometimes re-post these or encourage them to start their own blog!
Q: Do you find comments useful? Why do you have a comment function?
Comments are excellent. They show people are paying attention to what you write, are by turns encouraging and challenging, and add to the value of a post in lots of different ways.
Often they will lead you to people’s blogs that you haven’t come across before - usually the commenters.
Q: Who do you think can benefit most from blogging - the individual, the corporation or the brand?
I think of brands as shorthand for the aggregate reputation of a corporation, or part of one. Corporations are platforms for the talent of the individuals within it.
Individuals are who benefit most from blogging - it’s an individual medium. Corporations with bloggers benefit from having bloggers in their organisation, because they have highly motivated, informed, connected individuals within them.
The reputation of a brand and the corporation that manages it can benefit from encouraging bloggers and helping the to connect with networks of people that are important to it.
Q: What will the blogs of the future be like?
It is impossible to guess at what may evolve out of blogs as a format.
Put on the spot, which I guess, I am now, I would say that we’ll see personal spaces on the web include more video and images, be added to more often from mobile devices, become more sophisticated in how they share personal information with visitors.
Q: Blogging is a universal right - discuss
Blogging is one of the most powerful and easily accessible forms of communication in the world. It will always be as free as free speech. When you see it under attack, when you see bloggers under attack you know that freedom of expression is in danger.